New Orleans Saints: Three Keys to Beating Chicago Bears
With the NFL Wild Card weekend upon us, we have six games to look forward to rather than the four we used to have. This fills more time slots and channels throughout the day, which means more games to analyze and time to digest them. Sunday at 4:40 PM EST we have the 7th seed Chicago Bears taking on the 2nd seed New Orleans Saints, in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. In this article, I will be going over the 5 things the Saints need to do to pull off a win this weekend. With that said, let’s get right into it.
Keep the Run Game Going
Something continually noticeable about the Saints offense is the correlation of running the ball and successful production. Since this game will be played on Sunday, the Saints could see the return of Alvin Kamara, provided he tests negative. This would be a huge addition to the team, as him being able to break out for large chunks of yards is always helpful to the offense. It also helps get the passing game going, as the defenses will be more protective against the run, leaving the secondary more exposed.
In 2018 Alvin had his most productive postseason in terms of the touches he got per game and yards. With that, we saw the deepest run the team has made in these last three years. Compared to 2017 in which he also played in 2 games, these are the stats we saw.
- Wild Card Round 2017: 10 rushing attempts for 23 yards, 1 rushing touchdown, 1 reception for 10 yards
- Divisional Round 2017: 11 rushing attempts for 43 yards, 0 rushing touchdowns, 4 receptions for 62 yards, and a receiving touchdown
- Divisional Round 2018: 16 rushing attempts for 71 yards, 0 rushing touchdowns, 4 receptions for 35 yards
- NFC Championship Game 2018: 8 rushing attempts for 15 yards, 0 rushing touchdowns, 11 receptions for 96 yards.
Another thing to note is Kamara now has more experience being in his fourth year in the NFL. The addition of Latavius Murray and Ty Montgomery in the offseason will also help take some of the rushing and receiving load off his back.
Get Michael Thomas Involved
This one is relatively simple and self-explanatory, provided Michael Thomas plays this game. Getting him involved in the game is not simply throwing the ball his way either, as many may think that’s what I’m saying. The addition of MT to the field of play will draw at the very least 2 men into his coverage due to his huge number of targets. This allows other players to break open defenses, like Emmanuel Sanders, Jared Cook, Marquez Callaway, or the aforementioned Alvin Kamara even. Putting him out on the field gives the Saints a huge chance at getting a completed play, whether it be to Thomas or another player. This also makes Drew Brees’ job exceptionally easier, as it will make passing lanes slightly more open for him to throw into.
Michael is also a great competitor, regardless of his touches. He will do his best to get into the minds of opposing players and rattle their cages if he can. His presence on the field brings a fierceness that can really get into the mindset of the defense and make them double cover him every down. He has had a rough season so far due to a lingering ankle injury, which has hampered his production throughout the year. If he can just get a few breakaway catches and draw double coverage, that would help the Saints’ chances.
Saints Secondary Needs to be on “A” game
The Saints secondary is finally getting fully healthy, and at the right time too. The return of FS Marcus Williams, SS/Slot CB Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, and J.T. Grey for special teams being active are all great additions. The secondary is the main part of this defense that needs to show up on a weekly basis for the team to really succeed at a high level. The last time the Saints and Bears played in week 8 was really one of the not so good games early on for this secondary unit. To the Bears top 3 receivers, they allowed more than 70% completion to each of them. 2 of which being more than 80%. Those 3 receivers stat lines looked like this:
- Allen Robinson II: 6 receptions, 87 yards, 1 touchdown, 85.7% catch rate
- Darnell Mooney: 5 receptions, 69 yards, 1 touchdown, 83.3% catch rate
- Anthony Miller: 8 receptions, 73 yards, 0 touchdowns, 72.7% catch rate
This needs to be a point of emphasis going into the game, as it is a huge key this week. If they can lower the catch rate by a bit for each receiver and really get in between them and the ball, this game should be much easier than last time. If they keep letting Allen Robinson get 24-yard touchdown grabs while being wide open, this could be a long game for them. Something to note about the last matchup is the Saints secondary did a good job of containing Jimmy Graham at least. Holding him to only 2 receptions on 7 targets (28.6%), for 13 yards and no touchdowns. Holding him off the stat-sheet like that would be huge for this week if they can continue that.
With all of that said, we really see what this comes down to for New Orleans. Get the offensive proficiency that we saw in weeks 16 and 17, and keep the secondary moving. If they can do this, there’s a good chance they can take this game.
What do you think the Saints need to do to come out on top? Leave a comment down below and let me know!
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